Showing posts with label Bong Joon-ho. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bong Joon-ho. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Korean drama Mother is a story of maternal love. Bong Joon-ho director of The Host tells the story of a widowed woman (Kim Hye-ja) who sells herbs in a small Korean town. She looks after her only son Do-joon (Won Bin) who has an unspecified mental disability which makes him shy and come across as forgetful and dim-witted. He is referred to as a retard by those who know him and want to get a reaction from him. One night on his way home from a bar, Do-joon spots a teenage girl walking alone. He calls after her but then goes home. The next morning the girl is found dead and Do-joon is arrested for her murder. Convinced of his innocence, his mother stops at nothing to uncover the real killer.

The story is thoroughly enthralling and it twists and turns, constantly throwing up new clues or misdirections. I thought I had figured out who the killer was, and what their motives were on a number of occasions only to have another twist thwart my attempts to figure it out. The film is very good at giving obvious misdirected clues as well as subtle hints, some of which go nowhere while others are important. The story had me well and truly gripped.

Both lead actors are excellent. Kim Hye-ja, who won awards for her portrayal of the mother, is full of despair and determination and you can emphasise with her cause. You get the feeling from the outset that she will do literally anything to prove her son’s innocence and not stop until she has exhausted every line of enquiry. Won Bin is also very good as the mentally challenged Won Bin. It looks as though a lot of work went into researching his character and getting every facet spot on. Bong Joon-ho’s direction is quite superb. Each shot is exquisitely framed and the film looks very beautiful. He has also got superb performances from his cast.

The film has a satisfying climax which as well as tying up all the loose ends, gives complete closure to every part of the film. It was well worth waiting the 128 minutes to get to.

I haven’t got a bad word to say about the film but it lacks something I can’t quite put my finger on to make it a five star film. Nonetheless, it is remarkably well made and features some very poignant moments, particularly towards the end as well as great mystery and even a humorous first act.     


Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Host

Creature feature The Host is set in Seoul where an American pathologist orders his reluctant Korean assistant to pour hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde down the sink which in turn ends up in the Han River. Fast forward a couple of years and a giant monster is spotted hanging from a bridge over the Han and the film focuses its attention on one unremarkable family who are thrust into the middle of the extraordinary events which follow the monster’s first sighting and attack on the citizens of Seoul. Song kang-ho (Thirst, Joint Security Area) is the lead, playing a lazy and slow witted man who works at his fathers food stand. His daughter, played by Ko Ah-seong is a smart little girl who is abducted by the monster. Her father along with his brother Park Hae-il, sister Bae Doona and father Byeon Hee-bong try to evade the authorities and hunt down the monster to help save the girl.

The film contains elements of drama, comedy, horror and political commentary and is very successful at slipping from one genre to another in an instant. One moment Song Kang-ho is doing something silly or odd and the next he is screaming as he is tied down to undergo a lobotomy. The political themes and anti-American stance run throughout the film. The film’s opening idea is loosely based on a 2000 incident in which an American mortician dumped formaldehyde down the drains and into the Han and throughout, the US military are portrayed as uncaring towards the Korean population and willing to usurp the Korean Government to do what it wants, when it wants. The Anti-American theme is further exemplified by the fact that the film was lauded in North Korea which is unheard of for a South Korean film. The Anti-American stance makes me wonder why a Hollywood remake is being produced and as usual I wish it wasn’t. I’d like people to see the original and stop being so lazy and closed minded when it comes to reading subtitles.

The story itself is very good and the family, well defined. As well as the obvious political statement it is a study of a family and each person’s roles within that family. Song Kang-ho (one of my favourite actors) is excellent, playing a completely different type of character to what I’ve seen him do before. Ko Ah-Seong is also very good and seems mature beyond her years. I’m not surprised to read that she won awards for the role. The direction is great with Bong Joon-ho utilizing camera angles that lead you to wonder where the monster is and which are designed to keep you on edge.

When I first saw the monster I thought that it was well designed but that the CGI looked a bit shiny. The more I watched however I realised that that was obviously done on purpose as the monster is predominantly water dwelling and in fact the CGI is very good. There is one sequence in particular when the monster is first spotted in which the GCI and direction come together wonderfully to create a magnificent chase scene. It is unusual in a monster film to be able to see the monster fully early on. In films such as Cloverfield you never get much more than a hint of the monster but here it is visible from the get go and I think that makes for an interesting and brave change.     

Overall the film is interesting and exhilarating and manages to fuse different genres and themes. There are laugh out loud moments and times where the film feels very poignant. In addition, Song Kang-ho is a joy to watch.